Ver.4. "Contend with your mother, contend; for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband: and let her put away her whoredoms from her face, and her adultery from her breasts."
Calvin is of opinion that a contrast is here intended, inasmuch as the Israelites were striving with God, and attributed to Him the cause of their misfortune: "Do not contend with Me, but rather with your mother, who, by her adultery, has brought down righteous punishment upon herself and upon you." But this interpretation is inadmissible; because it proceeds [Pg 231] from the unfounded supposition that the divorce is to be considered as having already taken place outwardly, whilst the contending here clearly appears as one by which divorce may yet be averted. The words, "Contend with your mother," rather mean, on the contrary, that it is high time to call her to account, if they would not go to destruction along with her. From this, however, we are not entitled to infer that the moral condition of the children was better than that of the mother. Without any regard to their moral condition, the prophet only wishes to say that their interest required them to do this. If it were not his intention just to carry out the image of adultery, he might as well have called upon the mother to contend against the children, as it is said in Is. li.1: "Behold, for your iniquities you have been sold, and for your transgression your mother has been put away." In point of fact, the mother has no standing-place apart from the children. Vitringa says: "One and the same people is called 'mother' when viewed in their collective character; and 'children' when viewed in the individuals who are born of that people. For a people is born from the people. For the whole people is considered according to that which is radical in it, which constitutes its nature and substance, -- and, in this respect, it is called the 'mother of its citizens.'" But we are as little entitled to infer from this exhortation, that a reform, and an averting of the threatened judgments, may still be hoped for. This is opposed by what follows, where the wife appears as incorrigible, and her rejection as unavoidable. The fundamental thought is, on the contrary, only this: -- that a reform is necessary if the threatened judgments are to be averted. That this necessity, however, would not become a reality, the prophet foresaw; and for this reason he speaks unconditionally in the sequel. But from this again it must not be inferred that, in that case, his exhortations and threatenings would be altogether in vain. Though no reform was to be expected from the people, single individuals might, nevertheless, be converted. At the same time, it was of great importance for the future, that before the calamity should break in, a right view of it should be opened up to the whole people. It is of great importance, that if any one be smitten, he should know for what reason. The instructions in the doctrines of Christianity, which a criminal has received in childhood, may [Pg 232] often seem for a long series of years to have been altogether in vain; but afterwards, notwithstanding, when punishment has softened his heart, they bring forth their fruits. -- In the words, "For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband," the ground of the exhortation is stated. Even for this reason, the words cannot be referred to the external dissolution of the marriage, to the punishment of the wife; they signify rather the moral dissolution of the marriage -- the guilt of the wife -- and are equivalent to: "our marriage is dissolved de facto." But in the case of the spiritual marriage, this dissolution de facto is always, sooner or later, according to the greater or smaller measure of God's forbearance, followed by the dissolution de jure; or, to speak without figure, wherever there is sin, punishment will always follow. God bears with much weakness on the part of His people; but wherever, through this weakness, the relation to Him is essentially dissolved, He there annuls the relation altogether. The [Greek: parektos logou porneias] applies to spiritual marriages also. The surrender of the main faculties and powers of our nature to something which is not God, stands on a par with carnal adultery. Thus, then, the connection betwixt "contend" and "for" clearly appears. -- Many interpreters, viewing the clause beginning with [Hebrew: ki] as parenthetical, would connect the last words of the verse with [Hebrew: ribv]: "Contend with your mother that she may put away." But the words are rather to be considered as parallel with the first member; for "contend," etc., is equivalent to: "seek to bring your mother to a better way," or: "let your mother reform herself." Her crime is designated first as whoredom, and then as adultery. The relation in which the two stand to one another is plainly seen from chap. i.2, where the notion of adultery is paraphrased by: "whoring away from the Lord." By "whoredom," the genus -- carnal crimes in general -- is designated; by "adultery," the species, or carnal crime by which the sacred rights of another person are, at the same time, violated. The idea of whoredom, when transferred to a spiritual relation, implies chiefly the worldliness of those with whom God has not entered into any special relation; whilst the idea of adultery implies the worldliness of individuals and communities with whom God has entered into a special marriage, and whose apostasy is, for this reason, far more culpable. Leaving out of [Pg 233] view the more aggravating circumstance, the prophet first speaks of whoredom in the case of the children of Israel also. -- The reason why the whoredom is here attributed to the face, and the adultery to the breasts, is well given by Manger: "We need not have any difficulty about seeing adultery attributed to the very face and breasts. There is a certain expressiveness in this conciseness which demonstrates, as it were before our eyes, that, in her whole deportment, the wife was given over to sensuality, and that her whole aim was only to excite to it, and to practise it. For the face is, with women, the sign of dissolute lasciviousness -- as Horace expresses it in his Odes, I.19: --
Urit grata protervitas
Ezekiel, too, in chap. xxiii.3, speaks of 'the pressed breasts of Israel in Egypt.'" Schmid states as the reason why just the face and breasts are mentioned, "that Scripture, in order not to offend modesty, forbears to mention the worse and grosser deeds of fornication." But this is very little in harmony with the manner of Scripture -- as may be seen from a comparison of Ezek. xvi. and xxiii., and of ver.12 of the chapter before us. The reason rather is, that those parts are here specially to be mentioned, in which the whoring nature openly manifests itself; so that the highest degree of impudence is thereby expressed. This then shows that there is no longer any halting, no longer any struggle of the better against the evil principle. Such an impudent whore he resembles who, without shame or concern, publicly exhibits his devotedness to the world. In this way has Calvin also explained it. "There is no doubt," says he, "that the prophet here expresses the impudence of the people, who in their hardihood, in their contempt of God, in their sinful superstitions, and in every kind of wickedness, had gone to such lengths, that they were like whores who do not conceal their turpitude, but publicly prostitute themselves, yea, try to exhibit the signs of their wickedness in their eyes, as well as in their whole body."
Ver.5. "Lest I strip her naked and expose her as in the day of her birth, and make her like the wilderness, and set her like dry land, and slay her by thirst."
In the marriage here spoken of, there was this peculiarity, that the husband first redeemed the wife from a condition the [Pg 234] most wretched and miserable, before he united himself to her; and hence became her benefactor, before he became her husband. Compare iii.2, where the Lord redeems the wife from slavery; and Ezek. xvi.4, where the people appear as a child exposed, naked, and covered with filth, upon whom the Lord has mercy, -- whom He provides with precious clothing and splendid ornaments, and destines for His spouse. During the marriage, the husband continues his liberality towards his wife. But now, the gifts, all of which had been bestowed upon her only with a view to the marriage which was to take place or was already entered upon, are to cease, because the marriage-tie has been broken by her guilt. She now returns to the condition of the deepest misery in which she had been sunk before her union to the Lord. -- There is, in this, an allusion to that which, in the case of actual marriage, the husband was bound to give to his wife, viz., clothing and food; compare Is. iv.1. If God withdraws His gifts, the consequences are infinitely awful, because, altogether unlike the natural husband, He has everything in His possession; if He does not give anything to drink. He then slays by thirst. If we keep in view this aggravation of the punishment, which has its ground only in the person of the husband, it is evident that we have here before us only a reference to the withdrawal of the marriage-gifts which is the consequence of the divorce, and not, as several interpreters -- e.g., Manger -- suppose, to a punishment of adultery, alleged by them to have been common at that time, "that the wife was stripped of her clothes, exposed to public mockery, and killed by hunger and thirst." The eternal and universal truth which, in the verse before us, is expressed with a special reference to Israel, is, that all the gifts of God are bestowed upon individuals, as well as upon whole nations, either in order to lead them to the communion of life with Him, or because this communion already exists; just as our Saviour says that to him who has successfully sought for the kingdom of heaven, all other things shall be added, without any labour on his part. If we overlook the truth that the gifts of God have this object -- if they be not received and enjoyed as the gifts of God -- if the spiritual marriage be refused, or if, having been already entered into, it be broken, -- sooner or later the gifts will be withdrawn. -- The word "naked" properly includes a whole clause: "I shall strip [Pg 235] her so that she shall become naked." The verb [Hebrew: hcig], "to place," "to set," has the secondary signification of public exhibition; compare Job xvii.6. The literal translation ought to be, "I shall expose her as the day of her birth;" and we must assume that there is here the occurrence of one of those numerous cases, in which the comparison is merely alluded to, without being carried out; compare, e.g., "Like the day of Midian," Is. ix.3; "Their heart rejoiceth like wine," Zech. x.7. The tertium comparationis between the day of her birth and her future condition is only the entire nakedness; compare Job i.21. Any allusion to the filth, etc., is less obvious; the prophet would have been required to give an intimation of this in some manner. The two parts of the first hemistich of the verse correspond with each other; just as do the three parts of the second hemistich. In the first, the withdrawal of clothing, and nakedness; in the second, the withdrawal of food, and hunger and thirst. It is questionable whether the mention of the birth-day here belongs merely to the imagery, is a mere designation of entire nakedness, because man is never more naked than when he comes into the world; or whether it is to be understood as belonging to the thing itself, and refers to the condition of the people in Egypt to which they are now to be reduced. In favour of the latter explanation, there is not only the comparison of the parallel passage in Ezekiel, but, still more, the purely matter-of-fact character of the entire description. Israel is, in this section, not compared to a wife, so that figure and thing would be co-ordinate, but appears as the wife herself. Ver.17 also is in favour of this interpretation. -- The words, "I make her like the wilderness," which, by Hitzig and others, are erroneously referred to the country instead of the people, are pertinently explained by Manger: "The prophet depicts a horrible and desperate condition, where everything necessary for sustaining life is awanting, -- where she has to endure a thirst peculiar to an altogether uncultivated and sunburnt wilderness." The comparison appears so much the more suitable, when we remark that wilderness and desert are here personified, and appear as hungry and thirsty. This, however, was too poetical for several prosaic interpreters. Hence they would in both instances supply a [Hebrew: b] after the [Hebrew: k], "as in the wilderness" = "I place her in the condition in which she was formerly, in the [Pg 236] wilderness." But it is self-evident that such a supplying of the [Hebrew: b] is inadmissible. If we were to receive this interpretation, we must rather assume that here also there is merely a comparison intimated: "as the wilderness," -- for, "as she was in the wilderness." But even then, the interpretation cannot, for another reason, be admitted. The impending condition of the people did not, in the least, correspond to what it was in the wilderness. The natural condition of the wilderness was not then seen in all its reality; the people of the Lord received bread from heaven, and water from the rock. It has its antitype rather in such a condition as that which is to follow upon the punishment, ver.16. The Article indicates that, by "the wilderness," we are here to understand, specially, the Desert of Arabia, -- the desert [Greek: kat' exochen]. But that this comes into consideration only as one especially desolate, and not as the former abode of the Israelites, appears from the following -- "in dry land," without the Article, and not, as otherwise we would expect, "in the dry land." Finally, -- We have a parallel to this in the threatening in Deut. xxviii.48: "And thou servest thine enemy whom the Lord thy God will send upon thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in great want."
Ver.6. "And I will not have mercy upon her children, for they are children of whoredoms."
It appears from ver.7, that the children are to be repudiated on account of their origin (compare the remarks on i.2), and not on account of their morals. Michaelis says, "They have the same disposition, and follow the same course as their adulterous mother; for a viper bringeth forth a viper, and a bad raven lays a bad egg." The cause of their rejection is, that they are children of whoredoms. That they are such, is proved by the circumstance that their mother is whoring. Compare also v.7: "They have become faithless to the Lord, for they have born strange children." In point of fact, however, a sinful origin and a sinful nature are identical.
Ver.7. "For their mother has been whoring, she who bore them has been put to shame; for she has said, I will go after my lovers, the givers of my bread and my water, of my wool and my flax, of my oil and my drink."
[Hebrew: hvbiwh] is explained in a two-fold way. The common explanation is: "She has practised what is disgraceful, she has acted [Pg 237] shamefully." Others, on the contrary, explain: "She has been put to shame, she has been disgraced." In this latter way it is explained by Manger, who remarks, "that this word is stronger than [Hebrew: znh]; that it implies not only an accusation of vile whoredom, but also that she has been convicted of this crime, and as it were apprehended in flagranti; so that, even if she were yet impudent enough, she could no longer deny it, but must sink down in confusion and perplexity." This latter exposition is, without doubt, the preferable one; for, 1. [Hebrew: hvbiw] never occurs in the first-mentioned signification. Winer contents himself with quoting the passage before us. Gesenius refers, moreover, to Prov. x.5. But the [Hebrew: bN mbiw] of that passage is evidently a son bringing disgrace upon his parents, -- in xxix.15 [Hebrew: amv] is added, -- or making them ashamed, disappointing their hopes. On the other hand, the signification, "to be put to shame," "to be convicted of a disgraceful deed," is quite an established one. Compare, e.g., Jer. ii.26: "As the disgrace of a thief when he is found, thus the whole house of Israel is put to shame;" Jer. vi.15: "They are put to shame, for they have committed abomination; they shamed not themselves, they felt no shame;" compare also Jer. viii.9. In all these passages, [Hebrew: hvbiw] signifies the shame forced upon those who have no sense of shame. -- 2. The signification, "to act disgracefully," does not admit of a regular grammatical derivation. Gesenius refers to analogies such as [Hebrew: hiTib], [Hebrew: hre]; but these would be admissible only if the Kal [Hebrew: bvw] signified, "to be infamous," while it means only "to be ashamed." Being derived from [Hebrew: bvw], the verb can mean only "to put to shame," in which signification it occurs, e.g., in 2. Sam. xix.6. But, on the other hand, the signification, "to be put to shame," can be well defended. As the Hiphil cannot have an intransitive signification, it must, with this signification, be considered as derived from [Hebrew: bwt], "pudorem, ignominiam contraxit," -- a view which is favoured by Jer. ii.26. -- The "lovers" are the idols; compare the remarks on Zech. xiii.6. The [Hebrew: ki] confirms the statement, that she who bare them has been whoring, and has been put to shame by a further exposure of the crime and its origin. The same delusion which appears here as the cause of the spiritual adultery, is stated as such also in Jer. xlix.17, 18. Jeremiah there warns the people not to contract sin by idolatry, because that was the cause of all their present misery, and would bring upon them [Pg 238] greater misery still. But they answer him, that they would continue to offer incense and drink-offerings to the Queen of heaven, as they and their fathers had formerly done in their native land; for, "since we left off to do so, we have wanted all things, and were consumed by hunger and sword." The antithesis in Jer. ii.13 of the fountain of living waters, and the broken cisterns that hold no water, has reference likewise to this delusion. But that which is the cause of the gross whoredom, is the consequence of the refined one. The inward apostasy must already have taken place, when one speaks as the wife does in the verse before us. As long as man continues faithfully with God in communion of life, he perceives, by the eye of faith, the hand in the clouds from which he receives everything, which guides him, and upon which everything -- even that which is apparently the most independent and powerful -- depends. As soon as, through unbelief, he has lost this communion with God, and heaven is shut against him, he allows his eye to wander over every visible object, looks out for everything in the world which appears to manifest independence and superior power, makes this an object to which he shows his love, soliciting its favour, and making it his god. In thus looking around, the Israelites would, necessarily and chiefly, have their eyes attracted by the idols. For they saw the neighbouring nations wealthy and powerful; and these nations themselves derived their power and wealth from the idols. To these also the Israelites now ascribed the gifts which they had hitherto received; and this so much the rather, because it was easier to satisfy the demands of these idols, than those of the true God, who requires just that which it is most difficult to give -- the heart, and nothing else. And, being determined not to give it to Him, they felt deeply that they could expect no good from Him. Whatever good He had still left to them, they could consider as only a gift of unmerited mercy, and destined to lead them to repentance, -- a consideration which makes a natural man recoil and draw back, inasmuch as, in his relation to God, he always thinks only of merit. That which we thus perceive in them is even now repeated daily. We need only put in the place of idols, the abstract God of the Rationalists and Deists, man's own power, or the power of other men, and many other things besides, and it will at once be seen that the words, "I will go after my lovers that give me my [Pg 239] bread," etc., are, up to the present moment, the watch-word of the world. -- "Bread and water" signify the necessaries of life; "oil and (strong) drink," those things which serve rather for luxuries. -- "My bread," etc., is an expression of affection, indicating that she regards these as most necessary, and to be sought after, in preference to everything else.
Ver.8. "Therefore, behold, I hedge up thy way with thorns, and I wall her wall, and her paths she shall not find."
The apostate woman is first addressed: "thy way;" but the discourse then passes to the third person, -- "her wall, her paths." We must not conceive of this, as if the wife were to be shut up in a two-fold way: -- first, by a hedge of thorns, and then, by a wall; but the same thing is expressed here by a double figure, as is also done in Is. v.5. First, the shutting up is alone spoken of; it is afterwards brought into connection with the effects to be thereby produced; and because she is enclosed by a wall, she cannot find her path. "I wall her wall" is tantamount to, "I make a wall for her." The words of the husband in the verse under consideration form an evident contrast to those of the wife in the preceding verse. Schmid says: "The punishment is by the law of retaliation. She had said, 'I will go to my lovers;' but God threatens, on the contrary, that He will obstruct the way so that she cannot go." The [Hebrew: hnni] points to the unexpectedness of the result. The wife imagined that she would be able to carry out her purpose with great safety and ease; it does not even occur to her to think of her husband, who had hitherto allowed her, from weakness, as she imagines, to go on her way undisturbed; but she sees herself at once firmly enclosed by a wall. -- There can be no doubt, that, by the hedging and walling about, severe sufferings are intended, by which the people are encompassed, straitened, and hindered in every free movement. For sufferings regularly appear as the specific against Israel's apostasy from their God. Compare, e.g., Deut. iv.30: "In the tribulation to thee, and when all these things come upon thee, thou returnest in the end of the days to the Lord thy God, and hearest His voice;" Hosea v.15: "I will go and return to My place till they become guilty; in the affliction to them, they will seek Me." The figure of enclosing has elsewhere also, undeniably, the meaning of inflicting sufferings. Thus in Job iii.23: "To the man whose way is hid, [Pg 240] and whom God has hedged in round about;" xix.8: "He hath fenced up my way and I cannot pass, and upon my paths He sets darkness;" Lam. iii.7: "He hath hedged me about, and I cannot get out; He hath made my chain heavy;" compare also ibid. ver.9; Ps. lxxxviii.9. -- The object of the walling about is to cut her off from the lovers; the infliction of heavy sufferings is to put an end to idolatrous tendencies. -- The words, "thy way," clearly refer to, "I will go after my lovers," in ver.7; and by "her paths which she cannot find," her whole previous conduct in general is indeed to be understood, but chiefly, from the connection with ver.7, her former intercourse with idols. But here the question arises: -- How far is the remedy suited for the attainment of this end? We can by no means think of an external obstacle. Outwardly, there was, during the exile, and in the midst of idolatrous nations, a stronger temptation to idolatry than they had in their native land. Hence, we can think of an internal obstacle only; and then again we can think only of the absolute incapacity of the idols to grant to the people consolation and relief in their sufferings. If this incapacity has been first ascertained by experience, we begin to lose our confidence in them, and seek help where alone it can be found. As early as in Deut. xxxii. we are told how misery proves the nothingness of false gods, and shows that the Lord alone is God; compare especially ver.36 sqq. Jeremiah says in ii.28, "And where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? Let them arise and help thee in the time of trouble." That which the gods cannot turn away, they cannot have sent; and if the suffering be sent by the Lord, it is natural that help should be sought from Him also. Compare vi.1: "Come and let us return unto the Lord, for He hath torn and He healeth us, He smiteth and He bindeth us up."
Ver.9. "And she runs after her lovers and shall not overtake, and she seeks them and shall not find; then she saith: I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better with me then than now."
[Hebrew: rdP] has, in Piel, not a transitive, but an intensive meaning. Calvin remarks: "By the verb, insane fervour is indicated, as indeed we see that idolaters are like madmen; it shows that such is the perverseness of their hearts, that they will not at once return to a sound mind." The distress at first only increases [Pg 241] the zeal in idolatry; compare Jer. xliv.17. Every effort is made to move the idols to help. But if help be, notwithstanding, refused -- and how could it be otherwise, since they from whom it is sought are Elilim, i.e., nothings? -- they by and by begin to bethink themselves, and to recover their senses. They discover the nothingness of their idols, and return to the true God. This apostasy and return are in a touching manner described by our prophet in xiv.2-4 also. The words, "I will go and return to my first husband," form a beautiful contrast to, "I will go after my lovers," in ver.7. This statement of the result shows that God's mercy is then greatest and most effective, just when it seems to have disappeared altogether, and when His punitive justice seems alone to be in active exercise. For the latter is by no means to be excluded, inasmuch as there is no suffering which does not, at the same time, proceed from it, and no punishment which is inflicted solely on account of the reformation.
Ver.10. "And she, she does not know that I gave her the corn, and the must, and the oil, and silver I multiplied unto her, and gold which upon Baal they spent."
The prophet, starting anew, here returns to a description of her guilt and punishment; and it is only from ver.16 that he expands what, in ver.9, he had intimated concerning her conversion, and her obtaining mercy. The words, "She saith," in that verse, belong thus to a period more remote than the words, "She does not know," in the verse before us. The things which are here enumerated were, in the case of Israel, in a peculiar sense, the gift of God. He bestowed them upon the Congregation as her Covenant-God, as her husband. They are thus announced as early as in the Pentateuch; compare, e.g., Deut. vii.13: "And He loveth thee, and blesseth thee, and multiplieth thee, and blesseth the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, thy must, and thy oil;" xi.14: "And I give the rain of your land in due season, and thou gatherest in thy corn, thy must, and thy oil." It is certainly not accidental that Hosea enumerates the three objects, just in the same order in which they occur in these two passages. By the celebration of the feasts, and by the offering of the first-fruits, the Israelites were to give expression to the acknowledgment, [Pg 242] that they derived these gifts of God from His special providence -- from the covenant relation. The relative clause [Hebrew: ewv lbel] is subjoined, as is frequently the case, without a sign of its relation, and without a pron. suff., which is manifest from the preceding substantive. Several interpreters, from the Chaldee Paraphrast down to Ewald, give the explanation, "which they have made for a Baal," i.e., from which they have made images of Baal, and appeal to viii.4: "Their silver and their gold they have made into idols for themselves." But we must object to this opinion on the following grounds.1. [Hebrew: ewh], with [Hebrew: l] following, is a religious terminus technicus, with the sense of, "to make to any one," "to appropriate," "to dedicate," as appears from its frequent repetition in Exod. x.25 sqq., and also from the fact that [Hebrew: lihvh] is frequently omitted. The phrase is used with a reference to idolatry in 2 Kings xvii.32; 2 Chron. xxiv.7. -- 2. It cannot be proved that [Hebrew: hbel], in the singular and with the Article, could be used for "statues of Baal." -- 3. By this explanation we lose the striking contrast between that which the Israelites were doing, and that which they were to do. That which the Lord gave to them, they consecrated to Baal, instead of to Him, to whom alone these embodied thanks were due. And, not satisfied in withdrawing from the true God the honour and thanks which were due to Him, they transferred them to His enemy and worthless rival, -- a proceeding which bears witness to the deep corruption of human nature, and which, up to the present day, is continually repeated, and must be so, because the corruption remains the same. It is substantially the same thing that the Israelites dedicated their gold to Baal, and that our great poets consecrate to the world and its prince the rich intellectual gifts which they have received from God. The words, "and she knew not," in both cases show that they are equally guilty and equally culpable. He who bestows the gifts has not concealed Himself; but they on whom they are bestowed have shut their eyes, that they may not see Him to whom they are unwilling to render thanks. They would fain wish that their liberal benefactor were utterly annihilated, in order that they may not be disturbed in the enjoyment of His gifts by a disagreeable thought of Him, -- in order that they may freely use and dispose of them, without being obliged to fear their loss, -- and in order that they may be able to devote them, without any [Pg 243] obstruction, to a god who is like themselves, who is only their own self viewed objectively (ihr objectivirtes Ich). Parallel to the passage before us, and, it may be, formed after it, is Ezek. xvi.17, 18: "And thou didst take thy ornament of My gold and of My silver which I gave thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them. And thou tookest thy broidered garments, and coveredst them, and My fat and Mine increase thou gavest before them." Hitzig understands, by the Baal here, the golden calf, appealing to the fact that the real worship of Baal had been abolished by Jehu. But no proof at all can be adduced for the assertion that the name of Baal had been transferred to the golden calf. It is self-evident, and is confirmed by 2 Kings xiii.6, xvii.16 (in the latter of which passages the worship of Baal appears as a continuous sin in the kingdom of the ten tribes), that the destruction of the heathenish worship by Jehu was not absolute. But so much is certain, that by the mention of Baal, the sin is here designated only with reference to its highest point, and that, in substance, the service of the calves is here included. In 1 Kings xiv.9, it is shown that the sin of worshipping Jehovah under the image of calves is on a par with real idolatry; and in 2 Chron. xi.15, the calves are put on a footing with the goat-deities of Egypt.
Ver.11. "Therefore I return, and take My corn in its time, and My must in its season, and take away My wool and My flax to cover her nakedness."
[Hebrew: lkN] stands here with great emphasis. It points to the eternal law of God's government of the world, according to which He is sanctified upon them, in whom He has not been sanctified; and this so much the more, the closer was His relation to them, and the greater were His gifts. From him who is not thereby moved, they will be taken away; and nothing but his natural poverty and nakedness is left to him who was formerly so richly endowed. And well is it with him if they be taken from him at a time when he is able still to recognise the giver in Him who taketh away, and may yet deeply repent of his unthankfulness, and return to Him, as is said of Israel in iii.5. If such be done, it is seen that the ungrateful one has not yet become an object of divine justice alone, but that divine mercy is still in store for him. The longer God allows His [Pg 244] gifts to remain with the ungrateful, the darker are their prospects for the future. That which He gave in mercy, He, in such a case, allows to remain only in anger. The words [Hebrew: awvb vlqHti] are commonly explained by expositors, "I shall take again," inasmuch as two verbs are frequently found together which, in their connection, are independent of each other -- the one indicating only an accessory idea of the action. But this mode of expression occurs in general far more rarely than is commonly assumed; and here the explanation, "I will return and take," is to be preferred without any hesitation. Scripture says, that God appears even when He manifests Himself only in the effects of His omnipotence, justice, and love, -- a mode of expression which is explained by that large measure of faith which perceives, behind the visible effect, the invisible Author of it; compare, e.g., Gen. xviii.10, where the Lord says to Abraham, that He would return to him at the same period in the following year; whereas He did not return in a visible form, as then, but only in the fulfilment of His promise. Thus God had formerly appeared to Israel as the Giver; and now that they did not acknowledge Him as such. He returns as the God that takes away. "She did not know that I gave, therefore I shall return and take." That the words were to be thus understood, the prophet, as it appears, intended to indicate by the change of the tenses. It is quite natural that a verb, used as an adverb, should be as closely as possible connected with that verb which conveys the principal idea; and it would scarcely be possible to find a single instance -- at all events there are not many instances -- where, in such a case, a difference of the tense takes place. Altogether analogous is Jer. xii.15: "And it shall come to pass after I have destroyed them, [Hebrew: awvb vrHmtiM], I will return and have compassion on them;" where the sense would be very much weakened if we were to translate, "I shall again have compassion." There appears to be the same design in the change of the tenses in iii.5 also. What is there said of Israel forms a remarkable parallel to what is here said of God. God had formerly come, giving -- Israel, taking; God now returns, taking -- Israel giving, -- a relation which opens up an insight into the whole economy of the sufferings. -- "My corn," etc., forms a contrast to ver.7, where Israel had spoken of all these things as theirs. Whatever God gives, always remains [Pg 245] His own, because He gives only as a loan, and on certain conditions. If any one should consider himself as the absolute master of it, He makes him feel his error by taking it away. -- "In its time" and "in its season" are added, because it was then, ordinarily, that God had appeared as giving, and because then they therefore confidently expected His gifts. But now He appears at once as taking, because they were already so sure of the expected gifts that they held them, as it were, already in their hands; just as if, at Christmas -- which corresponds to the harvest, the ordinary season of God's granting gifts -- parents should withdraw from their children the accustomed presents, and put a rod in their place. It is better thus to understand the expression, "in its time, etc.," than to follow Jerome, who remarks, that "it is a severe punishment, if at the time of harvest the hoped-for fruits are taken away, and wrested from our hands;" for if, even at the time of the harvest, there be a want of all things, how will it be during the remaining time of the year. -- The words, "to cover, etc.," are very concise, but without any grammatical ellipsis, instead of, "which hitherto served to cover her nakedness." As to the sense, the LXX. are correct in translating, [Greek: tou me kaluptein ten aschemosunen autes]. For that which had hitherto been, is mentioned by the prophet only for the purpose of drawing attention to what in future will not be. -- It is the Lord who must cover the nakedness; and this leads us back to the natural poverty of man, who has not, in the whole world, a single patch or shred -- not even so much as to cover his shame, which is here specially to be understood by nakedness. The same thought which is so well calculated to humble pride -- what have we that we have not received, and that the Giver might not at any moment take back? -- occurs also in Ezek. xvi.8: "I spread out My wings over thee, and covered thy nakedness."
Ver.12. "And now I will uncover her shame before the eyes of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of My hands."
The [Greek: hapax legomenon] [Hebrew: nblvt] is best explained by "decay," "corpus multa stupra passum." Being a femin. of a Segholate-form, its signification can be derived only from the Kal; but [Hebrew: nbl] always signifies "to be faded, weak, feeble;" in Piel it means, "to make weak," "to declare as weak," "to disgrace," "to despise." As the signification of Kal does not [Pg 246] imply the Idea of ignominy, we cannot explain the noun, as several interpreters do, by "turpitudo, ignominia." The [Greek: akatharsia] of the LXX. is probably a free translation of the word according to our view. -- [Hebrew: leini] is constantly used for "coram, inspectante aliquo," properly, "belonging to the eyes of some one," and cannot therefore be explained here by "to the eyes," as if she were uncovered to, or for, the lovers alone; these, on the contrary, are mentioned only as fellow-witnesses. But in what respect do they come into consideration here? Several interpreters are of opinion that their powerlessness, and the folly of trusting in them, are intended to be here pointed out. Thus Calvin says: "The prophet alludes to the impudent women who are wont, even by terror, to prevent their husbands from using their rights. He says, therefore, this shall not prevent me from chastising thee as thou deservest." Thus also Stuck, who subjoins to the phrase "her lovers:" "who, if they had the strength, might be a help to her." But it is altogether erroneous thus to understand the verse. The words, "Before the eyes of the lovers," rather mean, that the Lord would make her an object of disgust and horror even to those who formerly sought after her. The idea is this: Whosoever forsakes God on account of the world, shall, by God, be put to shame, even in the eyes of the world itself, and all the more, the more nearly he formerly stood to Him. This idea is here expressed in a manner suited to the figurative representation which pervades the whole section. Jerome says: "All this is brought forward under the figure of the adulterous woman, who, after she has been taken in the very act, is exposed and disgraced before the eyes of all." The uncovering, as guilt, is followed by the uncovering, as punishment; and every one (and her lovers first) turns away with horror from the disgusting spectacle. They now at once see her who, hitherto, had made a show with the apparel and goods of her lawful husband, in her true shape as a withered monster. That this explanation is alone the correct one, appears from the parallel passages: compare, e.g., Nah. iii.5: "Behold, I come upon thee, saith the Lord of hosts, and uncover thy skirts upon thy face, and make the heathen to see thy nakedness, and kingdoms thy shame. And it cometh to pass, all that see thee shall flee from thee:" Lam. i.8: "Jerusalem hath committed sin, therefore she has [Pg 247] become a reproach; all that honoured her, despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; she sigheth and turneth away;" Jer. xiii.26: "And I also (as thou hast formerly uncovered) uncover thy skirts over thy face, and thy shame shall be seen;" Ezek. xvi.37, 41; Is. xlvii.3. -- But now, it might seem that, according to this explanation, not the idols, but only the nations serving them, can be understood by the lovers. But this is only in appearance. In order to make the scene more lively, the prophet ascribes to the [Hebrew: aliliM], to them who are nothing, life and feeling. If they had these, they would act just as it is here described, and as their worshippers really acted afterwards. -- The second member of the verse, "And none shall deliver," etc., is in so far parallel to the first, as both describe the dreadfulness of the divine judgment. Parallel is v.14: "For I will be as one who roars to Ephraim, and as a lion to the house of Judah: I will tear and go away, I will take away, and there is no deliverer."
Ver.13. "And I make to cease all her mirth, her feast, and her new-moon, and her sabbath, and all her festival time."
The feasts served a double purpose. They were days of sacred dedication, and days of joy; compare Num. x.10. Israel had violated them in the former character -- just as at present the sacred days have, throughout the greater part of Christendom, the name only by way of catachresis -- and, as a merited punishment, they were taken away by God in the latter character. They had deprived the festival days of their sacredness; by God, they are deprived of their joy fulness. The prophet, in order to intimate that he announces the cessation of the festival days as days of gladness, premises "all her mirth," to which all that follows stands in the relation of species to genus. [Hebrew: mwvw] does not here denote "joyful time:" it might, indeed, according to its formation, have this signification: but it is never found with it. It here means "joy" itself. (Compare the parallel passages, Jer. vii.34; Lam. i.4: "The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the feasts;" Amos viii.10: "And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation;" Lam. v.15; Is. xxiv.8, 11.) The three following nouns were very correctly distinguished by Jerome. [Hebrew: mvedi], "feast," is the designation of the three annual principal festivals. In addition to these, there was in every month the [Pg 248] feast of the new-moon; and in every week, the Sabbath. This connection is a standing one, which, even in the New Testament (compare Col. ii.16), still reverts. The words, "all her festival time," comprehend the single species in the designation of the genus. That [Hebrew: mved] properly signifies "appointed time," then, more specially, "festival time," "feast," appears from Lev. xxiii.4: "These are the [Hebrew: mvedi] of the Lord, the sacred assemblies which you shall call [Hebrew: bmvedM], in their appointed time." That the feasts are not a single species co-ordinate with the new-moons and Sabbaths, but the genus, appears from the fact that in Lev. xxiii. the Sabbath opens the series of the [Hebrew: mvediM]. In a wider sense, the new-moons also belonged to the [Hebrew: mvediM] although they are not enumerated among them in Lev. xxiii. on account of their subordinate character. In Num. x.10, Is. i.14, Ezra iii.5, the new-moons are mentioned along with the [Hebrew: mvediM] only as the species by the side of the genus. But we are at liberty to think only of the feasts appointed by God; for, otherwise, there would be no room for the application of the lex talionis: -- God takes from the Israelites only what they had taken from Him. The days of the Baalim are afterwards specially mentioned in ver.15. The days of God are taken from them; for the days of the Baalim they are punished. This much, however, appears from the passage before us -- and it is placed beyond any doubt by several other passages in Hosea as well as in Amos -- that, outwardly, the worship, as regulated by the prescriptions of the Pentateuch, had all along continued. (For the arguments in proof of this assertion, the author's Dissertations on the Genuineness of the Pentateuch, vol. i., are to be compared.)
Ver.14. "And I make desolate her vine and fig-tree, whereof she said, They are the wages of whoredom to me, that my lovers have given me; and I make them a forest, and the beasts of the field eat them."
The vine and fig-tree, as the two noblest productions of Palestine -- Ispahan, in the "Excerpta ex vita Saladini," p.10, calls them "ambos Francorum oculos" -- are here also connected with each other, as is commonly done in threatenings and promises, as the representatives of the rich gifts of God, wherewith He has blessed this country. -- [Hebrew: awr] is often placed before an entire sentence, to mark it out as being relative in general. [Pg 249] It is the looser, instead of the closer connection, = "of which." -- [Hebrew: atnh] "wages of prostitution," instead of which, in ix.1 and other passages, the form [Hebrew: atnN] occurs, requires a renewed investigation. It is commonly derived from [Hebrew: tnh], to which the signification "largiter donavit, dona distribuit," is ascribed. But opposed to this, there is the fact that the root [Hebrew: tnh] is, neither in Hebrew, nor in any of the dialects, found with this signification. It has in Hebrew, Arabic, and Syriac, the signification "to laud," "to praise," "to recount." But besides this [Hebrew: tnh], there occurs another [Hebrew: tnh], not with the general signification "to give," but in the special one, "to give a reward of whoredom;" in which signification it cannot be a primitive word, but derived from [Hebrew: atnh] = [Hebrew: ntN atnh], in the passage under consideration, and in Ezek. xvi.34. The supposition of a primitive verb [Hebrew: tnh], with the signification "to give," is also opposed by the circumstance that the noun which is said to be derived from it never occurs with the general signification "gift," but always with the special one, "reward of prostitution." [Hebrew: atnh] is rather derived from the first pers. Fut. Kal of the verb [Hebrew: ntN], a "I will-give-thee," similar to our "forget-me-not." The whore asks, in Gen. xxxviii.16, [Hebrew: mh-ttN li] ("what wilt thou give me?"), and the whoremonger answers, [Hebrew: atN-lK] ("I will give thee"), ver.18. From this there originated, in the language of the brothel, a base word for such base traffic. The sacred writers are not ashamed or afraid to use it. They speak, throughout, of common things in a common manner; for the vulgar word is the most suitable for the vulgar thing. The morality of a people, or of an age, may be measured by their speaking of vulgar things in a vulgar manner, or the reverse. Wherever, in the language, the "fille de joie" or "Freudenmaedchen" has taken the place of the "whore," a similar change will, in reality, have taken place. Whatsoever the people of Israel imagined that they received from their idols, they certainly will not have designated as a "reward of prostitution," but as a "reward of true love." But the prophet at once destroys all their pleasant imaginings by putting into their mouths the corresponding expression, -- an expression which must certainly have sounded very rudely and vulgarly in their tender ears; for the tongue and the ear become more tender, in the same degree in which the heart becomes more vulgar. She who imagined herself so tender and affectionate sees herself [Pg 250] at once addressed as a common prostitute. The sweet proofs of the heartfelt mutual love which her "lovers" gave her are called "wages of whoredom." This is indeed a good corrective for our language, for our whole view of things, for our own hearts, which are so easily befooled. All love of the world, all striving after its favour, every surrender to the spirit of the age, is whoredom. A reward of whoredom, which must not be brought into the temple of the Lord (for it is an abomination unto the Lord thy God, Deut. xxiii.19), is everything which it offers and gives us in return. Like a reward of whoredom, it will melt away; "of wages of whoredom she has collected, and to wages of whoredom it shall return." -- This derivation from the Future has a great many analogies in its favour; among others, the whole class of nouns with [Hebrew: t] prefixed, in which it is quite evident (although this has been so often overlooked) that they have arisen from the Fut. If the [Hebrew: t] in these forms originated from the Hiphil, how could it be explained that they are more frequently connected with Kal? Even the very common occurrence of the formation from the Future in the case of proper names, induces us to expect, a priori, that it will be more frequent in appellative names than is commonly supposed. The occurrence of the phrase [Hebrew: ntN atnh], in the passages quoted, is also in favour of this derivation. By it, the interchange of the two forms [Hebrew: atnh] and [Hebrew: atnN] is easily accounted for. In the latter of these forms, the Nun which prevails in [Hebrew: ntN], but which had been dropped at the beginning, again reappears. A variation in the form is, moreover, quite natural in a word which originated from common life, which is entirely destitute of accurate analogies, and is therefore, as it were, without a model; for the other nouns of this class are formed from the 3d pers. of the Fut. -- As regards, now, the substance: -- Egotism, and selfishness arising out of it, are the ground of all desire for the love of that which is not God, especially in the case of those who have already known the true God; for where this is not the case, there may be, even in idolatry, a better element, which seeks for a false gratification only because it does not know the true one. From this, however, it appears, that the idolatry of the Israelites (and this is only a species of the idolatry of all those who have had opportunity to know the true God, and of whom it is true that "the last is worse than the first") was [Pg 251] much lower than that of the Gentiles, whose poets and philosophers, in part, zealously opposed the dispositions which are here expressed; compare the passages in Manger. Egotism is here, as it always is, folly; for it trusts in him who himself possesses only borrowed and stolen goods, which the lawful owner may, at every moment, take away from him. And in order that such folly may appear as such, and very glaringly too. He appears here indeed, and takes what He had in reality given out of His mercy, but what, according to their imagination, they had received from the idols as a reward. -- The suffix in [Hebrew: wmtiM] refers to the vine and fig-tree. The gardens of vines and fig-trees carefully tended, hedged and enclosed round about, are to be deprived of hedges, enclosures, and culture ([Greek: kathulomanei gar me kladeuomene he ampelos], Clem. Alex. Paed. i.1, p.115 Sylb.), to be changed into a forest, and given over to the ravages of wild beasts; for the words "and eat them" are by no means to be referred to the fruits only. The same image of an entirely devastated country is found in Is. vii.23 ff.; Mic. iii.12.
Ver.15. "And I visit upon her the days of the Baalim, to whom she burnt incense, and put on her ring and her ornament, and went after her lovers, and forgat Me, saith the Lord."
The days of the Baalim are the days consecrated to their worship, whether they were specially set apart for that purpose, or whether they were originally devoted to the worship of the Lord, whom they sought to confound with Baal. Manger, and with him, most interpreters, are wrong in understanding by the days of Baal, "all the time -- certainly a very long one -- in which that forbidden worship flourished in this nation." Such would be too indefinite an expression. When days of the Baalim are spoken of, every one must think of days specially consecrated to them, -- their festivals. To this must be added, moreover, the reference to the days of the Lord in ver.13. In ver.10, however, only one Baal, [Hebrew: hbel], is spoken of; here there are several. This may be reconciled by the supposition that one and the same Baal was worshipped according to his various modes of manifestation which were expressed by the epithets. But the plural may also be explained -- and this seems to be preferable -- from 1 Kings xviii.18, where Baalim is tantamount to Baal and his associates (compare Dissertations on the Gen. of the Pent. vol. i. p.165); or from Lev. xvii.7, where [Hebrew: weiriM] denotes the Goat-idol, [Pg 252] and others of his kind. The calves, the worship of which was, at the time of Hosea, the prevailing one throughout the kingdom of the ten tribes, are, in that case, comprehended in the Baalim. -- In the words, "And she put on her ring and ornament," the figurative mode of expression has been overlooked by most interpreters. Misled by the [Hebrew: tqTir], which refers directly to the spiritual adulteress, they imagined that the wearing of nose-rings, and other ornaments, in honour of the idols, was here spoken of. A more correct view was held by the Chaldee who thus paraphrases: "The Congregation of Israel was like a wife who deserted her husband, and adorned herself, and ran after her lovers. Thus the Congregation of Israel was pleased to worship idols, and to neglect My worship." A great many false interpretations have had their origin in the circumstance, that they could not comprehend this liberty of the sacred writers, who at one time speak plainly of the spiritual antitype, and at another time transfer to it the peculiarities of the outward type. Had this been kept in view, it would not, e.g., have been asserted, that David had, in Ps. xxiii.5, relinquished the image of the good shepherd, because he does not speak of a trough which the actual good shepherd places before his sheep, but of a table, placed before them by the spiritual good Shepherd. In the passage under consideration, the [Hebrew: tqTir] denotes an action performed by her who is an adulteress in a spiritual point of view. In the words, "She puts on," etc., her conduct is described under the figure of that of her outward type. The actual correspondence is to be found in her efforts of making herself agreeable, -- in the employing of every means in order to gain her spiritual lovers. The putting on of precious ornaments comes into view, only in so far as it is one of these efforts, and, indeed, a very subordinate one. The burning of incense, the offering of sacrifices, etc., are, in this respect, of far greater importance. The correctness of our interpretation is confirmed by those parallel passages also, in which the same figurative mode of expression occurs. Thus, e.g., Is. lvii.9: "Thou lookest upon the king (the common translation, "thou goest to the king," cannot be defended on philological grounds) in oil (i.e., smelling of ointment), and multipliest thy perfume," -- evidently a figurative designation, taken from a coquetish woman, to express the employing of all means in, order to gain favour; -- Is. iv.30: [Pg 253] "And thou desolate one, what wilt thou do? For thou puttest on thy purple, for thou adornest thyself with golden ornaments, for thou rentest thine eyes with painting. In vain thou makest thyself fair; the lovers despise thee, they seek thy life." In Ezek. xxii.40-42, Jerusalem washes and paints herself, expecting her lovers, and decks herself with ornaments; then she sits down upon a stately couch; a table is prepared before her, upon which she places the incense of the Lord, and His oil. In this last feature in Ezekiel, the type disappears behind the thing typified, although not so completely as is the case in the passage under consideration, in the words, "She burns incense." -- From what has been remarked, it appears that, in substance, Hos. iv.13, "They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains and bum incense upon the hills," is entirely parallel. The two clauses, "She went after her lovers," and "she forgat Me," both serve to represent the crime in a more heinous light. Sin must certainly have already poisoned the whole heart, if occasion for its exercise be spontaneously sought after. In reference to the latter, Calvin remarks: "Just as when a wife has for a long time lived with her husband, and has been kindly and liberally treated by him, and then prostitutes herself to lovers, and does not entertain or retain any more love for him; such a depravity is nothing less than brutish."
Ver.16. "Therefore, behold, I allure her, and lead her into the wilderness and speak to her heart."
The consolation and promise here begin with as great abruptness as in the first section. It is reported how the Lord gradually leads back His unfaithful wife to reformation, and to reunion with Him, the lawful husband. Great difficulty has been occasioned to interpreters by the [Hebrew: lkN] at the commencement. Very easily, but at the same time very inconsiderately, the difficulty is got over by those who give it the signification, "utique, profecto;" but this cannot be called interpreting. It must be, above all, considered as settled and undoubted, that [Hebrew: lkN] can here have that signification only which it always has; and this all the more, that in vers.8 and 15 it occurred in the same signification. This being taken for granted, the "therefore" might be referred to the words of the wife in ver.9, "I will go and return to my first husband," and all which follows be considered as only a kind of parenthesis. That the Lord begins again to show Himself [Pg 254] kind to His wife would then have its foundation in this: -- that in her the first symptoms of a change of character manifested themselves. But this supposition is, after all, too forced. These words are too far away as that the prophet could have expected to be understood, in thus referring to them in a manner so indefinite. Several interpreters follow the explanation of Tarnovius: "Therefore, because she is not corrected by so great calamities, I will try the matter in another and more lenient way, by kindness." But the prophet could not expect that his hearers and readers should themselves supply the thought, which is not indicated by anything, -- the thought, namely, "because that former method was of no avail, or rather, because it alone did not suffice;" for it was by no means wholly in vain. When the Lord had hedged up her way with thorns, the woman speaks: "I will go and return;" and where tribulations are of no avail -- tribulations through which we must enter the kingdom of God -- nothing else will. The severity of God must precede His love. And even though this train of thought should have occurred to them, they had no guarantee for its correctness. It is most natural to take the [Hebrew: lkN] as being simply co-ordinate with the [Hebrew: lkN] in vers.8 and 11. The "because," which, in all the three places, corresponds to the therefore, is the wife's apostasy. Because she has forgotten God, He recalls Himself to her remembrance, first by the punishment, and then, after this has attained its end, -- after the wife has spoken: "I will go and return," -- by proofs of His love. The leading to Egypt, into the wilderness, into the land of Canaan, rests on her unfaithfulness as its foundation. Without it, the Congregation would have remained in undisturbed possession of the promised land. By it, God is induced, both according to His justice and His mercy, to take it from her, to lead her back into the wilderness, and thence to the promised land. -- [Hebrew: pth], in the Piel, is a verbum amatorium; it signifies "to allure by tender persuasion." There is to be a repetition of the proceeding of God, by which He formerly, in Egypt, allured the people to Himself, and induced them to follow Him into the wilderness, from the spiritual and bodily bondage in Egypt. After the sufferings, there always follows the alluring. God first takes away the objects of sinful love, and then He comes alluring and persuading us that we should choose, for the object of our love. Him who alone is worthy of, and entitled to, love. He is not [Pg 255] satisfied with the strict prosecution of His right, but endeavours to make duty sweet to us, and, by His love, to bring it about that we perform it from love. After He has thus allured us. He leads us from Egypt into the wilderness. -- The words, "I lead her into the wilderness," have been very much misunderstood by interpreters. According to Manger, the wilderness here is that through which the captives should pass on their return from Babylon. But one reason alone is sufficient to refute this opinion, -- namely, that on account of the following verse, by the wilderness (the article must not be overlooked), only that wilderness can be understood which separates Egypt from Canaan. Others (Ewald, Hitzig), following Grotius, understand by the wilderness, the Assyrian captivity. Kuehnoel has acquired great merit for this exposition, by proving from a passage in Herodotus, that there were, at that time, uncultivated regions in Assyria! The same reason which militates against the former interpretation is opposed to this also. To this it may be further added, that, according to it, we can make nothing of the alluring. The Israelites were not allured into captivity by kindness and love; they were driven into it against their will, by God's wrath. Moreover, what according to this interpretation is to be done with the [Hebrew: mwM] in ver.17? Did, perhaps, the vineyards of Canaan begin immediately beyond Assyria, or does not even this rather lead us to the Arabian desert? It is certain, then, that this desert is the one to be thought of here, and, in addition, that it can only be as an image and type that the prophet here represents the leading through the wilderness, as a repetition of the former one in its individual form; inasmuch as it was, substantially, equal with it. For they who returned from the Assyrian captivity could not well pass through the literal Arabian desert; and the comparison expressed in the following verse, "As in the day when she went up from the land of Egypt," shows that here also a decurtata comparatio must take place. But, now, all depends upon determining the essential feature, the real nature and substance, of that first leading through the wilderness; because the leading spoken of in the verse before us must have that essential feature in common with it. The principal passage -- which must guide us in this investigation, and which is proved to be such by the circumstance that the Lord Himself referred [Pg 256] to it when He was spiritually led through the wilderness, an event which, for a sign, outwardly also took place in the wilderness -- is Deut. viii.2-5: "And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to afflict thee and to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldst keep His commandments, or no. And He afflicted thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with the manna which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know, that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by everything which proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell these forty years. And thou knowest in thine heart, that as a father chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee." The essential feature in the leading through the wilderness is, accordingly, the temptation. By the wonderful manifestations of the Lord's omnipotence and mercy, on the occasion of Israel's deliverance from Egypt, a heartfelt love to Him had been awakened in the people. (Compare the tender expression of it in the Song in Exod. xv.; and also the passage in Jer. ii.2: "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, thy going after Me in the wilderness in a land not sown," -- which cannot but refer to the very first time of the abode in the wilderness, before the giving of the law on Sinai, as is evident from the mention of the youth and espousals; for the latter ceased on Sinai, where the marriage took place.) The whole conduct of the people at the giving of the law, -- their great readiness in promising to do all that the Lord should command, -- likewise bear testimony to this love. The Lord's heartfelt delight in Israel during the first period of their marching through the wilderness, of which Hosea speaks in ix.10, likewise presupposes this love. Thus the first station was reached. The people now hoped to be put in immediate possession of the inheritance promised to them by the Lord. But, because the Lord knew the condition of human nature. His way was a different one. A state of temptation and trial succeeded that of entire alienation from God. The first love is but too often -- nay, it is, more or less, always -- but a flickering flame. Sin has not been entirely slain; it has been only subdued for a moment, and only wants a favourable opportunity [Pg 257] to regain its old dominion. It would never be thoroughly destroyed, if God allowed this condition always to continue; if by always putting on new fuel, if by uninterrupted proofs of His love. He were to keep that fire burning continually. If the love of the feelings and imagination is to become a cordial, thorough moral love, it requires to be tried, in order that thus it may recognise its own nothingness hitherto, and how necessary it is that it should take deeper root. The means of this trial are God's afflicting us, concealing Himself from us, leading us in a way different from that which we expected, and, apparently, forsaking vis. But because He is the merciful One who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, -- because He Himself has commanded us to pray, "Lead us not into temptation," i.e., into such an one as we are not able to bear, and would thereby become a temptation inwardly, -- He makes His gifts to go by the side of His chastisements. He who suffered Israel to hunger, gave them also to eat. He who suffered them to thirst, gave them also to drink. He who led them over the burning sand, did not suffer their shoes to wax old. But this counterpoise to tribulation becomes, in another aspect, a new temptation. As Satan tries to overthrow us by pleasure as well as by pain; so God proves us by what He gives, no less than by what He takes away. In the latter case, it will be seen whether we love God without His gifts; in the former, whether we love Him in His gifts. This second station is, to many, the last; the bodies of many fall in the wilderness. But while a multitude of individuals remain there, the Congregation of God always passes over to the third station, -- the possession of Canaan. The state of temptation is, to her, always a state of sifting and purification at the same time. That which is to the individual a calamity, is to her a blessing. -- That we have thus correctly defined the nature and substance of the leading through the wilderness, is confirmed by the temptation of Christ also, which immediately succeeded the bestowal of the Spirit, which again corresponded to the first love. That this temptation of Christ corresponded to the leading through the wilderness -- in so far as it could do so in the case of Him who was tempted in all things, yet without sin; while in our case, there is no temptation, even when resisted [Pg 258] victoriously, that is without sin -- appears sufficiently from its two external characteristics, viz., the stay in the wilderness, and the forty days; but still more so, from the internal feature, -- the fact that the Saviour, in order to show the tempter that He recognised in His own case a repetition of the stay in the wilderness, opposed Him with a passage taken from the locus classicus concerning it, already quoted. -- We now, moreover, cite the parallel passages which serve as an explanation of the passage under consideration, and as a confirmation of the explanation which we have given. The most important is Ezek. xx.34-38: "And I bring you out from the nations, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand and with a stretched-out arm, and with fury poured out. And I bring you into the wilderness of the nations, and there will I plead with you face to face; like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead there with you, saith the Lord God. And I cause you to pass under the rod, and bring you into the bond of the covenant, and purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against Me; out of the land of your pilgrimage (the standing designation of Egypt in the Pentateuch) I will bring them forth, and into the land of Israel they shall not come, and ye shall know that I am the Lord." Here also, the stay in the wilderness appears as a state of trial, lying in the middle between the abode among the nations (corresponding to the bondage in Egypt, which was so not merely bodily, but spiritual also), and the possession of Canaan. And the result of this trial is a different one, according to the different condition of the individuals. Some shall be altogether destroyed; even the appearance of the communion with the Lord, which they hitherto maintained by having come out of the land of pilgrimage along with the others, shall be taken away; whilst the others, by the very means which brought about the destruction of the former, shall be confirmed in their communion with the Lord, and be more closely united to Him. Hosea, who, in consequence of the personification of the Congregation of Israel, has the whole more in view, regards chiefly the latter feature. A very remarkable circumstance in Ezekiel, however, requires to be still more minutely considered; because it promotes essentially the right understanding of the passage before us. What is meant [Pg 259] by the "wilderness of the nations?" Several interpreters think that it is the wilderness between Babylon and Judea. Thus, for example, Manger: "I am disposed to think that the desert of Arabia itself is here called the wilderness of the nations, on account of the different nomadic tribes which are accustomed to wander through it." Rosenmueller says: "He seems to speak here of those vast solitudes which the Jews had to pass through, on their way from Babylon to Judea." But this "I am disposed to think," and this "he seems," on the part of these interpreters, show that they themselves felt the insufficiency of their own explanation. That nomadic tribes are straying through that wilderness, is not at all essential, and can therefore not be mentioned here, where only the essential feature -- the nature and substance of the leading through the wilderness -- are concerned. And we cannot at all perceive why just the wilderness between Babylon and Judea should be called the wilderness of the nations. It was no more travelled by nomadic tribes than was any other wilderness. And just as little was it characteristic of it, that it bordered upon the territories of various nations (Hitzig). Such a designation would throw us upon the territory of mere conjecture, on which we are, in Holy Scripture, never thrown, except through our own fault. But it is quite decisive that the words, "I bring you out of the wilderness of the nations," stand in a close relation to the words, "I bring you out from the nations." From this it appears that the nations, to which the Israelites are to be brought, cannot be any other than those, out of the midst of whom they are to be led. In the first leading out of the Israelites, the two spiritual conditions were separated externally also. The first belonged to Egypt; the second, to the wilderness. But it shall not be thus, in this announced repetition of the leading. It is only spiritually that the Israelites, at the commencement of the second condition, shall be led out from among the nations, in the midst of whom they, outwardly, still continue to be. The wilderness is in the second Egypt itself. The stay in the wilderness is repeated as to its essence only, and not as to its accidental outward form; just as in Zech. x.12, the words, "And he passeth through the sea," which apparently might imply a repetition of the outward form merely, are limited to the substance by the subjoined "affliction." From this we obtain for our passage (Hitzig likewise [Pg 260] remarks: Ezek. xx.34-38 seems to depend on Hosea ii.16) the important result, that the leading of God which is here announced, is not limited to a definite place, and as little, to a definite time. And what is true of the leading through the wilderness, must necessarily apply to the leading into Canaan also. Just as Egypt might begin, and actually did begin, even in Palestine, inasmuch as Israel was there in a condition of heavy spiritual and bodily bondage; -- just as, spiritually, they might already be in the wilderness, though, outwardly, they were still under Asshur; so, the stay in the wilderness might, relatively, have still continued in Canaan, even although -- which did not happen -- the whole people should have returned thither with Zerubbabel. What is it that makes Canaan to be Canaan, the promised land, the land of the Lord? It is just this: -- that the Lord is there present with all His gifts and blessings. But such was by no means the case in the new colony. Because the spiritual condition of those who had returned was in conformity with the second -- in part, even with the first -- rather than with. the last station, their outward condition was so likewise. John the Baptist symbolized this continuation of the condition of the wilderness, by his appearing in the wilderness, with the preaching of repentance, and with. the announcement, that now the introduction to the true Canaan was near at hand. By proclaiming himself as the voice crying in the wilderness, announced by Isaiah, he showed with sufficient plainness how false was that carnal view which, without being able to distinguish the thought from its drapery, understood, and still understands, by the wilderness spoken of in this prophecy, some piece of land, limited as to space, and then murmured that the actual limit did not correspond with the fancied one. -- As in the case of Israel, so in ours also, these conditions are distinguished, not absolutely, but relatively only. Even he who has, in one respect, been already led through to Canaan, remains, in another respect, in the wilderness still. Canaan, in the full sense, does not belong to the present world, but to the future, as regards both the single individual, and the whole Church. -- Another parallel passage is Jer. xxxi.1, 2: "At this time, saith the Lord, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people. Thus saith the Lord, The people who have escaped from the sword find mercy in the wilderness; [Pg 261] I go to give rest to Israel." In Rev. xii.6, 14, the wilderness likewise designates the state of trial and temptation. -- [Hebrew: dbr el-lb], properly "to speak over the heart," because the words fall down upon the heart, signifies an affectionate and consolatory address; compare Gen. xxxiv.3 ("And he loved the damsel, and spoke over the heart of the damsel"), l.21; Is. xl.2. Here they signify that the wife is comforted after she had been so deeply cast down by the consciousness of her former unfaithfulness, and by the experience of its bitter consequences. The view of those who would here think only of the comforting words of the prophets is much too limited, -- although these words are, of course, included. We must chiefly think of the sermo realis of the Lord, of all the proofs of affectionate and tender love, whereby He gives rest to the weary and heavy-laden, and brings it about, that those who were formerly unfaithful, but who now suffer themselves to be led by Him out of the spiritual bondage into the spiritual wilderness, can now put confidence in Him; just as, formerly. He comforted Israel in the wilderness, in the waste and desolate land, in the land of drought and of the shadow of death (Jer. ii.6), and affectionately cared for all their wants, in order that they might know that He is the Lord their God, Deut. xxix.4, 5.
Ver.17. "And I give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor (trouble) for a door of hope; and she answers thither as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of Egypt."
The same faithful love which led into the wilderness, now leads into Canaan also; and the entrance into the promised land is immediately followed by the possession of all its gifts and blessings, which now legitimately belong to the faithful wife (her vineyards), whilst, formerly, they were taken from the unfaithful wife by the giver, ver.14. [Hebrew: ntN] with [Hebrew: l] of the person, always means "to give to some one." Hence Simson is wrong in giving the explanation: "And I make her of it, viz., the wilderness, her vineyards;" for the valley of Achor was not situated in the wilderness, but in Canaan; compare Is. lxv.10. The signification "to give" is here suited to the second member of the verse also. The valley of Achor is given to her in its quality as a valley of hope. The vineyards are mentioned with reference to ver.14, where the devastation of the vine is [Pg 262] threatened. They are brought under notice as the noblest possession, as the finest ornament of the cultivated land, in contrast with the barren wilderness. [Hebrew: mwM], properly "from thence," is correctly explained by Manger: "As soon as she has come out of that wilderness." The explanation of Roediger and others, "From that time," is unphilological; [Hebrew: wM] is never an adverb of time. -- According to the opinion of many interpreters (Calvin, Manger, and others), the valley of Achor here comes into consideration only because of its fruitfulness, and its situation at the entrance of the promised land, but not with any reference to the event which, according to Josh. vii., happened there. But the circumstance that here, as in the whole preceding context, the prophet, in almost every word, has before his eyes the former leadings of Israel, compels us, almost involuntarily, to have respect to that event. And, in addition, there is a still more decisive argument. It cannot be denied that there is a contrast between what the valley of Achor is by nature, and what it is made by the Lord; there is too plain a contrast between the hope and the affliction. But if thus the meaning of the name is brought into view, then certainly there must also be a reference to the event to which it owed its name. But in order to have a right understanding of this reference, we must find out what was the essential feature in the event, the repetition of which is here announced. The people, when they were entering into Canaan, were immediately deprived of the enjoyment of the divine favour by the transgression of an individual -- Achan -- which was only a single fruit from the tree of the sin which was common to all. But God Himself, in His mercy, made known the means by which the lost favour might be recovered; and thus the place, which seemed to be the door of destruction, became the door of hope; compare Schultens on Harari iii. p.180. The remembrance of this event was perpetuated by the name of the place; compare ver.25: "And Joshua said. Why hast thou troubled us? The Lord shall trouble thee this day. Therefore the name of the place was called. The valley of Achor, unto this day." This particular dealing of God, however, is based upon His nature, and must, therefore, repeat itself when Israel again comes into similar circumstances, -- must be repeated, in general, whensoever similar conditions arise. Even they who have already entered the [Pg 263] promised land, who have already come to the full enjoyment of salvation (full, in so far as it is considered as a whole, and designated as the last station; but as this last station again has several steps and gradations, this fulness can be relative only. If it were absolute, if nothing more of the wilderness were left, then, of course, the case here in question could no more occur; for a salvation absolutely full presupposes a righteousness absolutely full); -- even they who have already come to the full enjoyment of salvation, and to a degree of righteousness corresponding to this salvation, require still the mercy of God; for, without it, they would soon lose their salvation again. This mercy, however, is vouchsafed to them in abundant measure. The whole manner in which God leads those who have obtained mercy, is a changing of the valley of trouble into a door of hope. He will order all things in such a way, that the bond of union betwixt Him and those for whom all things must work together for good, instead of being broken by sin -- as it would be if He were justice alone -- is only the more strengthened. The same idea occurs again in ver.21. The new marriage-covenant is there founded not on justice only, but on mercy also. -- The words [Hebrew: venth wmh] are commonly explained, "She sings there," or, "She there raises alternative songs." But both of these interpretations are unphilological. For 1. [Hebrew: wmh] does not signify "there," but "thither." Those passages which have been appealed to for the purpose of proving that it may also sometimes signify "there," or "at yonder place," all belong to the same class. The opposite of the construction of the verbs of motion with [Hebrew: b] takes place in them. As, in these verbs, the idea of rest is, for the sake of brevity, omitted, so here, that of motion. Thus, e.g., Jer. xviii.2, "Go down to the potter's house, and thither will I cause thee to hear My voice," is a concise mode of expression for, "I will send My voice thither, and cause thee to hear there;" 1 Chron. iv.41, "Which were found thither," instead of, "which were found there when they came thither." We might, in the case of the passage under consideration, most easily concede what we are contending against, that [Hebrew: wmh] is used instead of [Hebrew: wM], as a kind of grammatical blunder; but that the writer knew the difference between these two forms clearly appears from the close of the verse, where, certainly, he would not have put [Hebrew: wmh] for [Hebrew: wM]. These are the instances adduced by Winer. Gesenius, further, refers [Pg 264] to Is. xxxiv.15: "Thither makes her nest;" but the making of the nest implies the placing of it. Ewald, moreover, appeals to Ps. cxxii.5: "Thither sit the thrones for judgment." It is true that [Hebrew: iwb] never signifies "to sit down," but it frequently implies it. He appeals, further, to the Song of Solomon viii.5: "Thither thy mother brought thee forth;" which is tantamount to -- there she brought thee forth, and put thee down. But [Hebrew: wmh] can so much the less signify "there," that the instances alleged for the weakening of the [Hebrew: h] locale in other passages, will not stand the test. Ewald appeals to Ps. lxviii.7: "God makes the solitary to dwell [Hebrew: bith];" which, however, does not mean "in the house," as Ewald translates, but "into the house" -- He leads them thither, and makes them to dwell there. The idea of motion being sufficiently indicated by the [Hebrew: h] itself, no other designation was required in poetry, which delights in brevity. Further -- Hab. iii.11: "Sun and moon stand [Hebrew: zblh], towards their habitation," __i.e.__, go into their habitation and stand there.2. The verb [Hebrew: enh] signifies neither "to begin the discourse," nor "to sing," nor "to sing alternately," nor "to correspond," nor "to be favourably disposed" (Ewald), nor "to obey" (Hitzig), but always, and everywhere, "to answer." All these explanations will lose their plausibility, if we only consider, that it is not always necessary that a question be expressed by words, but that it may be implied in the thing itself -- especially in the case of the lively Orientals, for whom things, even the most mute, have a language. As examples, we cite only 1 Sam. xxi.12: -- "Did they not answer to him in dances, saying, Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands!" Similarly also xxix.5. That even here, the signification "to answer" ought to be retained, is plain from xviii.7, compared with ver.6. The coming together of David and Saul was a silent question as to which was the greater. Ps. cxlvii.: "Answer the Lord with praise." The real addresses of the Lord were His blessings; compare vers.2-6, 8 ff. By everything which God gives He asks. What art thou doing to Me, since I am doing that to thee? [Hebrew: enh] is often used of God, although no formal question or prayer preceded; but the very relation itself implies prayer and asking. It is in this sense that even the ravens are said to cry to God. It is in this sense that God answers His people before they cry to Him. He who has nothing, prays by this very circumstance, even without words, [Pg 265] yea, even without the gestures and posture of one who is praying. Since, in these remarks, we have already refuted the arguments which seemed most plausible, we may pass over other objections which are less to the purpose. There is only the passage Exod. xv.21, which requires to be specially noticed, as it is in that passage that the signification "to sing alternately" is supposed, beyond any doubt, to be; and many interpreters assume that there is a verbal reference to it in the passage under consideration. "And then Miriam answered to them ([Hebrew: lhM], i.e., to the men), Sing ye to the Lord," Moses sings first with the children of Israel, ver.1, "and then Miriam the prophetess took, etc., and answered." The signification "to answer," is here quite evident. But, on the other hand, it appears that that passage has not the slightest relation to the one under consideration, inasmuch as there is not, in the latter, any mention of a first choir, to which the second answers. -- From what has been hitherto remarked, it is settled that the translation, "And she answers thither," is alone admissible. But now, since no verbal question or address has preceded here, the question arises: -- Which address by deeds called forth the answer? To this question an answer is readily suggested by the reference of [Hebrew: wmh] to the preceding [Hebrew: mwM]. The address must have come from that place to which the answer is sent; hence, it can consist only in the giving of the vineyards, and of the good things of the promised land generally. On entering into it, she is welcomed by this affectionate address of the Lord, her husband, and there she answers it. The following words, "As in the days," etc., show what that is in which the answer consists. If, at that time, Israel answered the Lord by a song of praise, full of thanks for the deliverance from Egypt, now also they will answer Him by a song of praise, for being led into Canaan. If history had given any report of a hymn of praise sung by Israel when they entered into Canaan, the prophet would have referred to it; but as it was, he could only remind them of that hymn. And although the occasion on which it was sung did not altogether correspond, it must be borne in mind, that in this hymn (compare ver.12 ff.) the passing through the Red Sea is represented as a preparatory step, and as prefiguring the occupation of Canaan -- the latter being contained in it as in a germ. It is, moreover, self-evident that the essential fundamental thought is [Pg 266] only that of the cordial and deep gratitude of the redeemed, -- that the form only is borrowed from the previous manifestation of this thankfulness. An image altogether similar, and arising from the same cause, is found in Is. xii. also, where the reference to Moses' hymn of thanks is manifested by employing the very words; and likewise in Is. xxvi.; and, further, in Hab. iii. and Rev. xv.3. -- [Hebrew: imi] and [Hebrew: ivM] are Nominatives, not Accusatives; which latter could not be made use of here, because the discourse is not of an action extending through the whole period, but of one happening at a particular point of that period. The comparison is here also merely intimated, because the tertium comparationis is abundantly evident from what precedes: "As the days of her youth," instead of, "As she once answered in the days of her youth."
Ver.18. "And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, thou shalt call Me, My husband, and shall call Me no more, My Baal."
The full performance of her duties corresponds with the full admission to her rights. The prophet expresses this thought, by announcing the removal of the two forms in which the apostasy of the people from the true God -- the violation of the marriage-covenant which rested on exclusiveness -- was at that time manifested. One of these was the mixing up of the religion of Jehovah with heathenism, according to which they called the true God "Baal," and worshipped Him as Baal; the other was still grosser -- was pure idolatry. The abolition of the former (compare above, p.176 f.) is predicted in this verse; the abolition of the latter, in the verse following. Both are in a similar way placed beside each other in Zech. xiv.9: "In that day shall there be one Lord, and His name one;" where the first clause refers to the abolition of polytheism, and the second to the abolition of the mixing of religion -- of the hidden apostasy -- which, without venturing to forsake the true God entirely and openly, endeavours to mix up and identify Him with the world. To the fundamental thought there are several parallels; e.g., Deut. xxx.5 ff.: "And the Lord thy God bringeth thee into the land which thy fathers possessed; and the Lord thy God circumciseth thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live." This passage shows that the verse before us, no less than that which precedes, contains a promise, and that the "calling," and the "calling no more," is a work of divine [Pg 267] grace. To this we are led also by the words, "I shall take away," in ver.19, as well as by the other parallel passages: -- Jer. xxiv.7: "And I give them an heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be a people to Me, and I will be a God to them, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart;" Ezek. xi.19: "And I give them one heart, and a new spirit I put within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh;" compare further Zech. xiii.2. Another interpretation of the verse recommends itself by its apparent depth. According to it, [Hebrew: bel] is to be taken as an appellative noun, the "marriage-Lord," in contrast with [Hebrew: aiw], "husband," and that the people are henceforth to be altogether governed by love. But this interpretation must be objected to, for a whole multitude of reasons. There is, first of all, the relation of this verse to the following one, which does not allow that [Hebrew: bel], which there occurs as a proper name, should in this place be taken as an appellative. There is, then, the arbitrariness in defining the relation between [Hebrew: aiw] and [Hebrew: bel], the former of which as little exclusively expresses the relation of love, as the latter excludes it. (Compare Is. liv.5, 6, lxii.4; 2 Sam. xi.26.) Further, it is incorrect to say that [Hebrew: bel] properly means "Lord;" it means "possessor." Still further, -- There is the unsuitableness of the thought, which would be without any analogy in its favour throughout Scripture. And, lastly, the relation of love to God cannot, even in its highest consummation, do away with reference to Him, etc.
Ver.19. "And I take away the names of the Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name."
The people are to conceive such an abhorrence of idolatry, that they shall be afraid of being defiled even by pronouncing the name of the idols. The words are borrowed from Exod. xxiii.13: "Ye shall not make mention of the name of other gods, neither shall it be heard out of thy mouth." The special expression of the idea must, as a matter of course, be referred back to this idea itself, viz., the abhorrence of the former sin and, hence, such a mention cannot here be spoken of as, like that in the passage before us, has no reference to that sin.
Ver.20. "And I make a covenant for them in that day with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the earth; and bow, and sword, and war I break out of the land, and make them to dwell in safety."
On the expression, "I make a covenant," Manger remarks, "The cause is here put for the effect, in order to inspire with greater security." For the benefit of Israel, God makes a covenant with the beasts, i.e., He imposes upon them obligations not to injure them. The phrase [Hebrew: krt brit] is frequently used of a transaction betwixt two parties, whereby an obligation is imposed upon only one of the parties, without the assumption of any obligation by the other. A somewhat different turn is given to the image in Job v.23, where, by the mediation of God, the beasts themselves enter into a covenant with Job after his restoration. [Hebrew: rmw] never means "worm," but always "what moves and creeps," both small and great, as, in Ps. civ.25, is subjoined by way of explanation. The three classes stand in the same order in Gen. ix.2. The normal order there established, "And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast," etc., returns, after the removal of the disturbance which has been produced by sin. Upon the words, "I break," etc., Manger makes the very pertinent remark: "It is an emphatic and expressive brevity, according to which breaking out of the land all instruments of war, and war itself, means that He will break them and remove them out of the land." It is self-evident that "war" can here, as little as anywhere else, mean "weapons of war." The prophet, as it appears, had in view the passage Lev. xxvi.3 ff.: "If ye will walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments and do them, I will give you your rains in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.... And I give peace in the land, and you dwell, and there is none who makes you afraid; and I destroy the wild beasts out of the land, and the sword shall not enter into your land." It is so much the more obvious that we ought to assume a reference to this passage, as Ezekiel also, in xxxiv.25 ff., copies it almost verbatim. On account of the fatal If, that promise had hitherto been only very imperfectly fulfilled; and frequently just the opposite of it had happened. But now that the condition is fulfilled, the promise also shall be fully realized. But we must observe, with reference to it, that, when we look to the present course of the world, this hope remains always more or less ideal, because in reference to the condition also, the idea is not yet reached by the reality. The idea is this: -- As evil is, as a [Pg 269] punishment, the inseparable concomitant of sin, so prosperity and salvation are the inseparable companions of righteousness. This is realized even in the present course of the world, in so far as everything must serve to promote the prosperity of the righteous. But the full realization belongs to the [Greek: palingenesia], where, along with sin, evil too (which is here still necessary even for the righteous, in order to purify them) shall be extirpated. Parallel are Is. ii.4, xi.-xxxv.9; Zech. ix.10.
Ver.21. "And I betroth thee to Me for eternity; and I betroth thee to Me in righteousness and judgment, and in loving-kindness and mercy."
Ver.22. "And I betroth thee to Me in faithfulness, and thou knowest the Lord."
The word [Hebrew: arw], "to espouse" (compare Deut. xx.7, where it is contrasted with [Hebrew: lqH]), has reference to the entrance into a marriage entirely new, with the wife of youth, and is, for this reason, chosen on purpose. "Just as if (so Calvin remarks) the people had never violated conjugal fidelity, God promises that they should be His spouse, in the same manner as one marries a virgo intacta." It was indeed a great mercy if the unfaithful wife was only received again. Justly might she have been rejected for ever; for the only valid reason for a divorce existed, inasmuch as she had lived in adultery for years. But God's mercy goes still further. The old offences are not only forgiven, but forgotten. A relation entirely new begins, into which there enter, on the one side, no suspicion and no bitterness, and on the other, no painful recollections, such as may pass into similar human relationships, where the consequences of sin never disappear altogether, and where a painful remembrance always remains. The same dealing of God is still repeated daily; every believer may still say with exultation: "Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." It is the greatness of this promise which occasions the direct address, whilst hitherto the Lord had spoken of the wife in the third person. She shall hear face to face, the great word out of His mouth, in order that she may be assured that it is she whom it concerns; and in order to express its greatness, its joyfulness, and the difficulty of believing it, it is repeated three times. Calvin says: "Because it was difficult to deliver the people from fear and despair, and because they could not but be [Pg 270] aware how grievously they had sinned, and in how many ways they had alienated themselves from God, it was necessary to employ many consolations, that thus their faith might be confirmed. One likes to hear the repetition of the intelligence of a great and unexpected good fortune which one has some difficulty in realizing. And what could a man, despairing on account of his sins, less readily realize than the greatest of all miracles -- viz., that all his sins should be done away with, at once and for ever? But the repetition is, in this case, so much the more full of consolation, that, each time, it is accompanied with the promise of some new blessing; that, each time, it opens up some new prospect of new blessings from this new connection. First, there is the eternal duration, -- then, as a pledge of this, the attributes which God would display in bestowing it, -- and, finally, there are the blessings which He would impart to His betrothed." The [Hebrew: levlM] points back to the painful dissolution of the former marriage-covenant: This new one shall not be liable to such a dissolution; for "the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord:" Is. liv.10. The attributes which God will display towards the wife, and the conduct which she shall observe towards Him through His mercy, are connected with [Hebrew: arwtiK li], "I betroth thee to Me," by means of [Hebrew: b], which is often used to mark the circumstances on which some action rests. Thus, in the case before us, the betrothment rests upon what God vouchsafes along with it, inasmuch as thereby only does it become a true betrothment. That the accompanying gifts must be thus distributed -- as we have done -- first, the faithful discharge of all the duties of a husband on His part, and then, the inward communication of strength to her for the fulfilment of her obligations; and that we are neither at liberty to refer, as do some interpreters, everything to one of the two parties, nor to assume, as others do, that everything refers to both at the same time -- is proved not only by the intervening repetition of "I betroth thee to Me," but also by the internal nature of the gift's mentioned. [Hebrew: rHmiM], "mercy," cannot be spoken of in the relation of the wife to God, nor knowledge of God, in the relation of God to the wife. The four manifestations of God which are mentioned here form [Pg 271] a double pair, -- righteousness and judgment, loving-kindness and mercy. The two are frequently connected in a similar way; e.g., Is. i.27: "Zion shall be redeemed in judgment, and her inhabitants in righteousness." They are distinguished thus: -- the former, [Hebrew: cdq], designates the being just, as a subjective attribute, with the dispositions and actions flowing from it; the latter, [Hebrew: mwpT], denotes the objective right. A man can give to another his right or judgment, and yet not be righteous; but God's righteousness, and His doing right in reference to the Congregation, consists in this: -- that He faithfully performs the obligations which He took upon Himself when He entered into covenant with her. This, however, is not sufficient. The obligations entered into are reciprocal. If, then, the covenant be violated on the part of the Congregation, what hope is left for her? In order the more to relieve and comfort the wife, who, from former experience, knew full well what she might expect from righteousness and judgment alone, the Lord adds a second pair, -- loving-kindness and mercy, the former being the root of the latter, and the latter being the form in which the former manifests itself, in the relation of an omnipotent and holy God to weak and sinful man. [Hebrew: Hsd], properly "love," man may also entertain towards God; although even this word is very rarely used in reference to man, because God's love infinitely exceeds human love; but God only can have [Hebrew: rHmiM], "mercy," upon man. But still a distressing thought might, and must be entertained by the wife. God's mercy and love have their limits; they extend only to the one case which dissolves even human marriage -- the type of the heavenly marriage, the great mystery which the Apostle refers to Christ and the Church. What, then, if this case should again occur? Her heart, it is true, is now filled with pure love; but who knows whether this love shall not cool, -- whether she shall not again yield to temptation? A new consolation is applied to the new distress. God Himself will bestow what it is not in the power of man to bestow -- viz., faithfulness towards Him (compare [Hebrew: amvnh] used of human faithfulness, in Hab. ii.4; Jer. v.3, vii.28; the faithfulness in this verse forms the contrast to the whoredom in i.2), [Pg 272] and the knowledge of Him. "Thou knowest the Lord" is tantamount to -- "in My knowledge." The knowledge of God is here substantial knowledge. Whosoever thus knows God cannot but love Him, and be faithful to Him. All idolatry, all sin, has its foundation in a want of the knowledge of God.
Ver.23. "And it comes to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord; I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; Ver.24. And the earth shall hear the corn, and the must, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel" (i.e., him whom God sows).
The promise in this passage forms the contrast to the threatening in Deut. xxviii.23, 24: "And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The Lord will give for the rain of thy land, dust, and dust shall come down from heaven upon thee." The second [Hebrew: aenh] is, by most interpreters, considered as a resumption of the first. But we obtain a far more expressive sense, if we isolate the first [Hebrew: aenh], "I shall hear," namely, all prayers which will be offered up unto Me by you, and for you. Parallel, among other passages, is Is. lviii.9, where the reformed people are promised: "Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and He shall say. Here I am." By a bold prosopop[oe]ia, the prophet makes heaven to pray that it might be permitted to give to the earth that which is necessary for its fruitfulness, etc. Hitherto they have been hindered from fulfilling their destination, since God was obliged to withdraw His gifts from the unworthy people, ii.11; but now, since this obstacle has been removed, they pray for permission to resume their vocation. The prophets in this manner give, as it were, a visible representation of the idea, that there is in the whole world no good independent of God, -- nothing which, in accordance with its destination, is not ours, and would indeed be ours, if we stood in the right relation to Him, -- nothing that is not His, and that will not be taken away from us, if we desire the gift without the Giver. Calvin remarks: "The prophet shows where and when the happiness of men begins, viz., when God adopts them, when He betrothes Himself to them, after having put away their sins.... He teaches, also, in these words, that the heavens do not become dry by some secret instinct; but it is when God withholds His grace, that there is no rain by which the heavens water the earth." God, then, here shows [Pg 273] plainly that the whole order of nature (as men are wont to say) is so entirely in His hand, that not one drop of rain shall fall from heaven unless by His will, -- that the whole earth would produce no grass, -- that, in short, all nature would be sterile, unless He made it fruitful by His blessing.
Ver.25. "And I sow her unto Me in the land, and I have mercy upon her 'who had not obtained mercy' (Lo-Ruhamah); and I say to 'not My people' (Lo-Ammi), Thou art My people, and they say to Me, My God."
The three symbolical names of the children of the prophet here once more return. The femin. suffix in [Hebrew: zretih], referring to [Hebrew: izreal], need not at all surprise us; for, in the whole passage before us, the sign disappears in the thing signified. In point of fact, however, Jezreel is equivalent to Israel to be sowed anew. (It is not the Israel to be planted anew, which is a figure altogether different; the sowing has always a reference to the increase.)
Footnote 1: In our authorized version [Hebrew: mwpT] is almost constantly rendered by "judgment," although evidently in the sense pointed out by the author, -- for which reason, this rendering has been retained here. -- Tr.